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What was Heather Hutt doing when $1.62M funds were redirected?

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Good morning! It’s Monday, December 4.  Welcome to Katchup Briefing, the Korea Daily’s weekly English newsletter. Here, I will keep you informed with the latest news updates and perspectives from the Korean-American community. If you’re interested in exploring more articles and columns from previous weeks, please visit koreadailyus.com.

Filthy graffiti and posters cover the façade of a building in LA’s Koreatown. [Sangjin Kim, The Korea Daily]

On November 29, the Los Angeles City Council made the final decision to redirect $1.62 million in environmental beautification project funding from the Wilshire Center/Koreatown Neighborhood Council’s jurisdiction in District 10 to beautification efforts in District 13.

Initially approved by Mayor Eric Garcetti in 2019, this funding has now been entirely shifted to District 13, a neighborhood adjacent to Koreatown. The transfer is still pending final approval from the mayor’s office, but with all council members in favor, it’s effectively a done deal.

The funds were originally allocated as part of the Wilshire Center/Koreatown redevelopment project, but the council decided to move them after a lack of public outreach and concrete plans.

On August 15, council members Hugo Soto-Martinez (District 13) and Monica Rodriguez (District 7) introduced and passed a motion to transfer the funds to District 13.

The fund transfer was further discussed at the council’s Trade and Tourism Committee on July 7, where council members Traci Park (District 11), Tim McOsker (District 15), and Soto-Martinez all voted in favor of the motion. This means the money will be spent in District 13 by next October.

When funds are not spent or are left over from development and environmental beautification projects, they are often redirected to areas of greater need. However, it doesn’t make sense to me why the funds would be transferred to a neighboring district for street beautification when the Koreatown neighborhood also urgently needs beautification works.

Filthy graffiti covers the wall of a building in LA’s Koreatown. [Sangjin Kim, The Korea Daily]
Some sources familiar with City Council politics said that the decision to transfer funds was made because the office of the 10th District Council member was unable to plan and carry out beautification works with the available funds.

They further explained that District 10 Council members Mark Ridley-Thomas and Herb Wesson were preoccupied with defending their seats, and caught up in political turmoil, which hindered their ability to plan the expenditure of the beautification funds. Additionally, in 2020, the Wilshire Center/Koreatown Neighborhood Council was not functioning effectively due to the resignation of many delegates amid internal feuds.

But Heather Hutt was appointed to the 10th District Council on April 11, and the new Wilshire Center/Koreatown Neighborhood Council was launched in July. The City Council passed a motion to transfer the funds to District 13 on August 15, and the decision was finalized on November 29. In the meantime, what has Council member Heather Hutt been doing?

Does this mean District 10 has no political leaders, administrative organization, or plan to use the allocated environmental beautification funds? It’s frustrating. Many places in Koreatown need to be cleaned of graffiti, homeless tents, dirty places, potholes, and blinking streetlights. It’s a shame because more people would visit Koreatown if the funds were used to clean up the environment in Koreatown.

It won’t be easy to reverse the transfer of funds, but the 10th District Council member should seriously reflect on the reasons behind this situation.

By Mooyoung Lee      lee.mooyoung@koreadaily.com